Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cosplay Tips: Fancy dress 101

As I have said before, to me Halloween is the one time of the year when anyone of any age can dress up. As the month of October is fast approaching I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my opinions on choosing costumes.

Obviously these aren’t strict rules, and even if they were, rules are made to be broken -- especially at Halloween. So I’d like to hope that some people will take the advice I’ve outlined here on board; I think it will lead to a happier stress free Dresscapade :D


1) Be aware of your prep time
For a costume to work you need some careful preparation. I’d say from start to finish it takes me around a month to design, acquire and modify a costume; thinking in advance of an event is essential for me. Mostly this is because I work full time, have other commitments and buy most of my items mail order (so there are delivery times to consider), but it is worth allowing enough time to create your costume so you are not stressed at the last minute and can enjoy the creative process.

2) Know your theme
Although this doesn’t apply so much at Halloween, as these days pretty much anything goes from a corset and a cat tail to a full medieval court princess, it is important for other events. Investigate the theme -- is it something you like? Is it common? Or is it something a bit weird? Either way, a theme can be friend or foe so think carefully about the limits it imposes.

Which brings me nicely onto…

3) There is no such thing as too much research!
Investigate the theme. The internet is an invaluable tool for this, with countless forums dedicated to costumes etc. You can simply google ‘your chosen theme costume ideas’ and you’ll be bombarded with information.


For me the best example for this was just before a friend’s birthday bash. Her theme was London Underground stations; in a rush I had no idea what to dress as and googled the theme to gather intel. I ended up dressing as a rather risky Russell Square and went as Russell Brand, complete with drawn on beard, backcombed hair and very skinny jeans -- I received some strange looks that day!

 4) Pick something you like
It know it seems obvious, but the number of times people dress as Wonder Woman and have no idea about her is outstanding! I know of at least four people, and CBS’s The Big Bang Theory has a whole episode dedicated to the unwitting Wonder Woman fancy dress phenomenon. Don’t just grab a costume because its there -- if it’s something you love, it will look better for it.
Penny as Wonder Woman in TBBT

5) Use what you have
Another obvious one really, but if you have dyed pink hair then use it! If you have a great figure -- show it off! The closer you are to looking like a character, the less work you have to put into the costume and if you already own clothes you can wear then all the better. After all, it saves you time and money (and who doesn’t want that!).

6) Keep it realistic
If you work full time, have 3 kids or do a billion other extracurricular activities then make sure you are realistic about how much time it will take to make or assemble your costume. It would be rather stressful trying to make a full cardboard replica of Optimus Prime (yeah, it happens...) to wear when you only have 5 hours to make it in!

7) Group confidence
If you’re feeling a little nervous about your costume when venturing out in a large, or even small, group can allow everyone to hide in plain sight. It provides a bubble of protection so you can sink to the background if it all gets a little too much, or parade around at the front if you want to the centre of attention. Besides, a team fancy dress is always more fun.

Me as Harley Quinn plus others Batman Rogues

On a side note, wearing masks, wigs and heavy makeup are things that can help you feel more confident when venturing out in costume. Remember that they’re designed so that no one will recognise you!

8) Don’t go out in only lingerie
I’m by no means a prude… but I see many people -- yes mostly women -- who seem to use Halloween or fancy dress as an excuse to venture out in only lingerie. Just remember that it’s nearly November and it’s cold… If you’re going for something that should show flesh, then skin-tone tights, control pants and a lot of sticky tape will help keep you warm and everything in place.

Related to this point is that you should never wear a costume that is sold as ‘Sexy insert costume name here’. Especially if its Pac-Man. Eww.

Pretty sure she shouldn't have a ghost there...

9) Be creative!
Even if you buy an entire costume in a kit, do not be afraid to modify a costume, sew bits on, chop bits off or swap things for different versions that look better. It’s a costume and only you know how you want the interpretation of the character to look. The more of it you can make for yourself the better.

10) There is more to life than costume shops
While a costume shop may be the first port of call to Dresscapade novices, for me they’re somewhere I only go if I’m desperate. I find the most valuable resources are eBay -- although this requires a specific knowledge of items required -- and second-hand shops. Charity or thrift shops may take a bit of trawling, but most of my Bellatrix LeStrange costume was found during an afternoon looking for bargains along Brighton’s London Road.

For more dos and don’ts of costuming check out WTF Costumes
it will shock and amaze you.

Anywho, that's all for now, and good luck with Halloween!

Happy Dresscapades!

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